Innovator and Start-up Visas: how can I increase my chance of success?

Since the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa route* by the Home Office in March 2019, uncertainty and ambiguity have surrounded the government’s new Innovator/Start-up visa schemes. Instead of assessing an applicant’s business ideas themselves, the Home Office have now essentially passed on this responsibility to a group of ‘endorsing bodies’. These organisations now receive applications directly from aspiring innovators or their agents (in general, we understand that their chances of success are higher with a direct application), award the endorsement on the basis of ‘innovation, viability and scalability’ and then the applicant goes to the Home Office for the visa with their business endorsement in place.

In theory, the new system should work better, as the endorsing bodies are generally much better qualified to assess an applicant on the three criteria mentioned above than the Home Office. In reality, however, the new schemes have been rolled out in a disorganised and at times chaotic fashion leading to a significant amount of scepticism for all interested parties. Indeed, still now, five months after the introduction of the new visa, we are still being told by endorsing bodies that they are not accepting applications as their internal processes are still being developed.

All this is not to say that you cannot successfully apply for an Innovator or Start-up visa at this point in time. And indeed, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of success.

Write a detailed business plan

A strong business plan is one of the best ways to ensure success in receiving an endorsement. Writing a business plan is an important part of any new business undertaking and will also help to crystallise your business idea, foresee any potential challenges or pitfalls and develop a cohesive vision and strategy for your company. A business plan is also essential if you choose to seek investment or a bank loan.

For visa purposes, your business plan will generally cover the aspects below; remember to always emphasise the ways in which your company is innovative, viable and scalable.

Executive Summary

  • Succinct overview
  • Motivation for Establishing the Company
  • Short, Medium and Long Term Goals
  • Sales and Marketing Methods
  • Brief Financial Summary

Company Summary

  • Steps to Establishing a Company
  • Company Overview       
  • Company Director Profile
  • Staff Profile
  • HR Strategy in Hiring People
  • Products and Services
  • Presence, Location and Facilities
  • SWOT Analysis

Market & Competitor Analysis

  • In-depth industry assessment
  • Surrounding factors
  • Competitors: Tier 1 (direct), Tier 2 (analogous)

Competitive Advantage

  • Financial Summary
  • Financial Assumptions
  • Forecasted Cash Flow (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Annual Profit & Loss (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Balance Sheet (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Stock Levels (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Revenue Forecast (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Cost of Goods Sold (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Delivery Costs (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Advertising Expenditure (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Fixed Asset Schedule (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Staff Costs (Years 1 – 5)
  • Forecasted Storage Costs (Years 1 – 5)


Create a Pitch Deck and work on your presentation skills

A pitch deck is a presentation designed to give your audience a brief overview of your business plan. It should be brief, punchy and use visualisations to represent data and ideas. A pitch deck should be no more than 15 slides long (ideally no more than 10) and contain what you consider to be the most important information and aspects of your business plan, such as your motivation and passion for the project, USP and an overview of the financials.

At the same time, you will need to be able to speak articulately about the business, which is something you can work on and improve. Many courses and events exist to help you work on these skills; Eventbrite and Google are good places to start looking.

Research the organisation you are looking to receive endorsement from

There is a wealth of information on the internet about the endorsing bodies, including on and their own websites. Ensure that your business aligns with their focus. If you have any questions, phone them up; many are better placed now to answer questions about applications for endorsement after initial confusion.

Remember the three main criteria

Ultimately, your application will be assessed on:

  • Viability – is the business feasible and do you have the tools at your disposal to make it a success?
  • Innovative – what are you offering that other companies are not?
  • Scalable – is there scope for growth and expansion and will the UK economy benefit as a result?

If you would have any questions about applying for an Innovator or Start-up visa, or if you need assistance writing your business plan or pitch deck, please get in touch for a no-obligation consultation!

*a type of business visa, where an applicant would have to invest £200,000 into a new or pre-existing company and employ at least two staff members to be eligible for extension.